Islamists, members of the brotherhood and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi shout slogans during a protest around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in the suburb of Nasr City, in Cairo June 21, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Hundreds of thousands have gathered in front of Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo’s Nasr City to voice their support for President Mohamed Morsi.
The pro-Morsi rallies, which were organised under the banner of “denouncing violence,” come ahead of planned anti-Morsi protests on 30 June.
Demonstrators held banners in support of the president, chanting “Islam is the solution” and “the Quran is the constitution.”
Some held Egyptian flags, while others held flags with the logo of the Muslim Brotherhood, or black flags emblazoned with the slogan “no God but God.”
According to Al-Ahram Arabic news website, several demonstrators formed ad hoc protection committees around the vicinity of the mosque in case of violence.
Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members were bussed into Cairo for the rally from other governorates, reported Al-Ahram. One man held a sign reading “Upper Egyptians are with you, Mr. President.”
A number of prominent Islamist figures took to the stage on Friday afternoon, such as Salafist preacher Safwat El-Hegazy, former MP Mohamed El-Omda, and presenter on Misr 25, the Brotherhood’s official channel, Noor Abdel-Hafez, reported Ahram Online’s Osman El-Sharnoubi.
Speaking to the masses from the stage, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya member Assem Abdel-Maged announced that copies of the pro-Morsi Tagarud ‘Impartiality’ petition forms had been distributed among the thousands present. He asked them to bring the petitions signed to next Friday’s million-man march.
“Tagarud has collected 13 million signatures,” announced Abdel-Magued.
The pro-Morsi campaign, which is connecting signatures to counter an anti-Morsi signature drive by the Rebel campaign, had announced on Thursday that it had only collected 11 million signatures.
He further vowed that by next Friday, 33 million signatures would have been collected.
“Next Friday is the spark for the Islamic revolution,” he said.
On Thursday, the anti-Morsi campaign announced that it had collected 15 million signatures, 2 more than the 13 million that brought the Islamist president to power last year.
Prior to his speech, Abdel-Maged held the hands of Mohamed Omara, a member of the Salafist Nour Party, welcoming him onto the stage.
The Nour Party and ideological parent the Salafist Call had said that they would not officially participate in either the pro-Morsi rallies or the opposition protests on 30 June, objecting to the increasing levels of political polarisation.
While several ambulances are on site, no security forces have been deployed as yet to the rally.
There were some chants against Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad at the demonstration.
The rally saw a martial arts performance by Islamist youths wearing chest guards typically worn in martial arts matches.
Privately-owned television channels ONTV and CBC, both often accused by Islamists of being anti-Muslim Brotherhood, have said that their crews were assaulted by the crowds while covering the protests.
On Saturday, President Morsi severed ties with Syria and withdrew the Egyptian ambassador from Damascus, a move which the opposition perceived as an attempt to please both the US and his Islamist supporters.
Seventeen Islamist parties have announced their support for Friday's pro-Morsi rallies, including the Freedom and Justice Party, the Wasat Party, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development Party, and the Salafist Watan and Asala parties.
"We seek to promote peaceful means of demonstrating, denounce the opposition's calls for violence and – most importantly – support Egypt's freely elected president and defend his democratic legitimacy," Ahmed Oqeil, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) told Ahram Online.